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  ― 22 ―

Chapter III. Flattery.

IT was still early in the forenoon when the boat containing Mark Brandon and his inferior confederates drew near to the motionless brig, on the deck of which the passengers and crew were assembled to view the first appearance of the occupiers of the new world. Their surmises on its appearance were as various as their characters.

“There are three of them,” said the major; “what can be their object?”

“It's a sweet boat,” said the mate; “it floats on the water like a duck! But those are lubberly fellows in the yellow jackets; they don't seem much used to handle an oar, to my thinking.”

“Gracious! what an odd way to dress in!”


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remarked Louisa; “they must be very fond of yellow.”

“It's the livery, most likely, of the servants of the gentleman who sits in the starn of the boat,” remarked the cockney (he always said starn instead of stern, because he thought the broader sound more nautical). “Perhaps it is the governor coming to visit us?”

“It's a pilot, no doubt,” said the mate; “though he is but a rum-looking one, I see, by his coat-flaps hanging over; but pilots' tails grow on this side of the earth. Well, perhaps he'll bring a wind with him. Stand by, there, and ship the hand-ropes.”

By the aid of these conveniences the supposed pilot swung himself up on board, and, without betraying by a muscle of his countenance his apprehension of the daring risk which he was running, should it happen that any one on board was acquainted with the persons of the true officials, he touched his hat in a respectful manner to the major, who seemed the principal person on board, nodded to the mate, took off his hat to the ladies, to the eldest of whom he presented a sprig


  ― 24 ―
of wild geranium which he had plucked from a shrub on shore, and, having glanced at the sails and gear with a professional look, he asked the usual question:—

“Where from?”

“London,” replied the major.

“I suppose you're a pilot?” asked the mate.

The pilot nodded an affirmative.

“What sort of berth have we got here? bottom good?”

The pilot shook his head:—

“Ah! very well,” he replied; “if it doesn't come on to blow; but this is a dangerous channel. All well on board?”

“All well,” replied the major. “You see the whole of us,” he added; “our craft is but a small one.”

“You don't seem to be strong-handed,” remarked the pilot, carelessly.

“Only nine men with the mate, and the steward, and the boy, making, with myself, thirteen—Oh! I forgot Mr. Silliman; he makes fourteen; and, with my two daughters, sixteen in all.”

The pilot looked at Mr. Silliman with an


  ― 25 ―
expression that a close observer might have construed into an opinion, that he did not consider it of much importance whether that young gentleman was included in the number or not; but he examined the crew with more attention. It did not seem to him that there was much fight in them if it came to a struggle; but with the major, he saw in a moment, he had to deal with a man of determination and energy; and the mate, too, he thought, might prove an ugly customer. As for the rest, their air and appearance did not affect him with any particular uneasiness.

“What chance of a wind?” asked the mate, who, sailor-like, was always thinking of the wind or his sweetheart; “what chance of a wind? its dull work sticking here.”

“Do you want wind?” asked the pilot.

“Want wind!” exclaimed the mate, surprised at such an unprofessional observation; “why, what else does any one want aboard ship but wind?—‘The wind that blows, and the ship that goes——’ ”

“ ‘And the lass that loves a sailor,’ ” chimed in the smiling Mr. Silliman, casting a sentimental


  ― 26 ―
look at both the sisters, which Louisa laughed at, but which Helen returned with a look of scorn that made the unfortunate cockney wish himself back within the sound of Bow Bells. The pilot observed the look, but gave no sign of noticing anything but the masts and sails of the vessel.

“I am afraid,” he said with a serious air, “that you will soon have more wind than you can make use of. Has any one on board been in this part of the world before?”

“Not one of us,” said the major, who began to be uneasy at the threat of a gale of wind from such an authority as the pilot, and in the midst of a channel that was imperfectly known:—“Not a man on board has been in this country before, and we know nothing of the ways of the place.”

So much the better, thought the pilot. “I am sorry for that,” he said aloud; “however, the commandant will allow some of our men to lend you a hand, I dare say. There is no fear of the wind coming on before mid-day. First we shall have a dead calm, just as it is now; and then there will come a burst from the Wellington Mountain that you see peering over those trees


  ― 27 ―
yonder, that will spin you round like a humming-top.”

“Like a what?” said the mate .…

“The land on the right-hand side there.”

“The right-hand side!” exclaimed the mate, again astonished at the fashion of the sea-lingo in the new world.

“I mean to starboard, mate,” said the supposed pilot, recollecting himself; “but you know, mate, when we speak to ladies, we ought not to make use of our nautical jargon. And I can tell you what, my friend, the man that brought this tiny craft half round the globe safe and sound, as you have done,—and in sailor-like trim, too,—I say that such a man is a credit to the service, and I have no doubt the governor will make a public proclamation of the feat, for the encouragement of all future navigators.”

The honest mate, albeit that the language of the pilot was not of a description with which his rough ears had wont to be regaled among his hardy messmates of the sea, was hugely mollified by this well-timed compliment: and at once attributed the unseamanlike phraseology and


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bearing of the pilot to the transmogrifying qualities of the new country. The pilot then turned to the major:—

“You must have had great experience, sir, and great courage, too, to take on yourself the charge of so small a vessel to this distant place. It is the smallest craft, I think, since the time of Captain Cook, that has visited these seas.”

The major was excessively pleased at this flattering eulogium from so experienced a person.

“And as to these young ladies, they do honour, sir, to their country. Sir, they will be regarded by all Australia as the heroines” (here Helen's eyes flashed, and Louisa shrunk back)—“as the heroines of the new world. But you are short handed, sir, very:—however, this gentleman was as good as an able seaman to you” (Jerry actually thrilled with delight to the very tips of his fingers, and he shook the pilot's hand cordially); “and you must have had a capital crew,” he added, raising his voice, so as to be heard by those who were lingering within earshot to catch any information from the oracle of sailors in an unknown sea; “a capital crew,


  ― 29 ―
and every man of 'em a seaman—every inch of him, or you would never have succeeded in the exploit of bringing your vessel so far in safety, and with so few hands; every hand must have been worth two, that's certain.”

The official commendation of the pilot was immediately carried forward, and it was received by the crew with no less satisfaction than it had been devoured by their superiors.

“And now,” he continued, after having noted every particular of the vessel into which he could find an excuse for prying, and, after having extravagantly praised the juvenile steward for the admirable order in which he kept the cabins and their appurtenances, wondering how they could contrive to find room for their arms in so confined a space, and the boy having replied that they were all stowed away in the lockers, the pilot took his leave “to make interest with the commandant” to allow some of the best behaved men in the government employ, and who could be trusted, to assist in securing the vessel from the coming storm. It was with great difficulty that he defended himself from the pressing


  ― 30 ―
offers of Mr. Silliman to accompany him, which he was enabled to parry only by judicious hints of the inconvenience which might arise to the vessel from the absence of so efficient a hand at the present time; but he gave the major reason to understand that as the commandant was stationed at an out-of-the-way place, to which it was difficult to convey supplies, a few bottles of brandy, &c., might be acceptable—a hint which was readily complied with. Thus provided, the pilot returned to the shore, and the parties on board hastened to pass their different opinions on his person and demeanour.

“A very well spoken man,” observed the major; “quite a superior man, indeed, to what one would expect; but perhaps, like the rest of us, he may have been better off in the old country.”

“He has a very fine countenance,” said Helen; “but there was something in his look that did not quite satisfy me; he seemed to me to be playing a part; but for what purpose, I'm sure I cannot imagine.”

“I thought him a very nice man for a pilot,' remarked Louisa; “but this little sprig of geranium


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which he gave to us has no smell; what a deception, for a geranium to be without fragrance! A knavish Van Diemen's Land weed in the disguise of an honest flower.”

“He was a very determined-looking fellow, that,” said the mate, after some reflection, his mind dwelling with considerable satisfaction on the praise which had been artfully instilled into the unsuspecting ears of the honest seaman; “though I can't say he looked much like a sailor; but I suppose they are not so particular in these parts; and it's not to be supposed that a thorough-bred seaman who could do better, would be dodging about here after a stray vessel now and then. It would n't be worth his while. He's not a bad chap, for all that.”

“In my opinion,” said Mr. Jeremiah Silliman, giving his little tarry hat a vigorous slap to set it firmer on his head, which he held considerably higher since the eulogistic observations on his nautical qualifications so judiciously administered by the stranger; “in my opinion that is the most sensible man I ever met with—the present company always excepted:—he knows what a sailor


  ― 32 ―
is, that man. None of your shore-going, conceited fellows, but a perfect sailor. I knew it directly; I saw through him, though he did wear a long-tailed coat; but I dare say that was because he could n't get a regular jacket—like mine.”

In the mean while, the object of these self-satisfactory encomiums was making the best of his course to the shore, not disdaining to take an oar to make the better way, and in little more than half an hour he had rejoined his fellows.

“What news?” asked his famished confederates.

“Rum, biscuit, beef, and brandy.”

“Hurrah! Mark for ever!”

The provisions were rapidly consumed with the avidity of hungry men; but as they were afraid of making a fire, lest the smoke should betray their whereabouts, they divided the uncooked meat with the remains of the bread into equal portions, of which each man took his share, to provide against an emergency.

But of the “drink” their leader insisted ontheir being sparing for the present, as the prize was too valuable to risk the loss of it for the sake of


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temporary indulgence in liquor which they could revel in on board in the event of their success. This argument prevailed against the strong desire to make the best use of their time in that respect; besides, they were aware of the difficulty of existing for any length of time in the bush, where they would be constantly exposed to danger from the natives on the one hand, and from the parties of soldiers and constables who would be sent in pursuit of them on the other; and that their only hope of ultimate escape from the death to which their flight into the bush condemned them was some such chance as the present. The much-longed-for spirits, therefore, were placed in the custody of their leader, and the men, sober and steady, after having been perfectly instructed in the parts they were to act, rowed in a vigorous and orderly manner to the devoted brig.

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